The five most influential people in NYC wine

mystery_manNew York City is the best wine city on the planet. The shops are amazing–if you want a wine, it’s almost always possible to find it. The sommeliers are in the vanguard of the sparkling young sommeliers across the country, creating long wine lists and short lists, all-American lists and all-Spanish ones and everything in between. The importers have scoured foreign lands and share their plunder, educating and sating the thirsty masses back at home. It’s also a center of wine journalism, with scribes swirling and spitting.

So who shapes minds or moves cases in the city today? It may seem like inside baseball–a trade story in one city. But the most influential people in New York City shape trends today that will affect consumers either tonight in a restaurant in town, tomorrow in a store or via a column, or a year or so down the road if you’re not as plugged in. There are certainly other deserving wine hubs in the US; perhaps we’ll tackle those in the future.

Rather than reclining in a Barcalounger, uncorking some bubbly and holding forth on who I thought deserved to be on New York City’s power list of wine, I decided to actually ask some elites in the wine world. I emailed three dozen industry movers and shakers and received 29 responses. I contacted the heads of big stores, big distributors and corporate beverage directors as well as some sommeliers, small shop owners and a few well-placed journalists and a couple of PR people. With their permission, a complete list of respondents follows below. Participants were asked to name their top five most influential people–living or dead, residing in NYC or not–with a request not to nominate themselves or anyone at their firm.

So who are the top five on the power list in New York City? Stay tuned next week as we roll out the responses in reverse order. But don’t let the fun wait until next week–feel free to nominate the five most influential people in the wine world as you see it. Or take a stab at guessing who were the consensus choices among the respondents.

Participants in the survey

Chris Adams, Sherry-Lehmann
Suzanne Barros, Wine Australia
David Bowler, David Bowler Wine
Tom Byrnes, T. Edward Wine
Per Holmberg, Christie’s Wine
Martin Gold, Martin Scott Wines
Josh Greene, Wine & Spirits
John Kapon, Acker, Merrall & Condit
Jean-Luc Le Du, Le Du’s Wines
Pascaline Lepeltier, Rouge Tomate
Leonardo LoCasio, Winebow
Michael Madrigale, Bar Boulud
Jeff Patten, Uva Wines
Doug Polaner, Polaner Selections
Juliette Pope, Gramercy Tavern
Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar
Jamie Ritchie, Sotheby’s Wine
Carla Rzeszewski, The Breslin & The John Dory Oyster Bar
Jesse Salazar, Union Square Wines
Victor O. Schwartz, VOS
Bill Sciambi, Verity Wine Partners
Aldo Sohm, Le Bernardin
Mike Steinberger, journalist
Bernie Sun, Jean-Georges Management
Christopher Tracy, Channing Daughters Wine
David Weitzenhoffer, A.I. Selections
Jamie Wolff, Chambers Street Wine
Jeff Zacharia, Zachys
Hristo Zisovski, Altamarea Group

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36 Responses to “The five most influential people in NYC wine”

  1. Really? That’s the possibilities?? What about Joe Dressner, Neal Rosenthal or Paul Grieco even??

  2. Hi David – As I mentioned in the post, the universe of people is open to anyone, living or dead, resident of NYC or not. The list above is simply the people who submitted their opinions; it is not a short list. The results will follow next week.

  3. I see I misread this. The folks above were the respondents not the nominees…Got it…

  4. Tyler,

    …and the criteria that defines “power” is?

  5. Levi Dalton. David Lillie. Chris Adams?

  6. Thomas – I intentionally left it open-ended. I suggested influence could be either moving cases (raw power?) or shaping minds (soft power?). Either way, I was asking for influence as they see it from their perch, not from macro statistics.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Dave!

  7. Paul Grieco
    Jean-Luc Le Du
    Joe Dressner
    Alice Feiring
    Jamie Wolff

  8. Tyler – if you are including the dead, it’s not fair. You’d have to have Frank Schoonmaker, Alexis Lichine, Alex Bespaloff, and Frank Prial on the list, and that only leaves room for one more. Why not break it into two lists?

  9. I vote for me….

  10. In no particular order
    Joe Dressner
    Eric Azimov
    Daniel Johnnes
    Paul Grieco
    David Lillie

  11. Kevin Zraly
    Herriet Lembeck
    Ed Lauber (oh please reverse history :))
    Charles Marinoff (ditto from above)
    Abe Simon
    Charlie Berns of 21 Club

  12. John- thanks for your comment. The key is that I asked who has influence TODAY. If the leading participants in the industry that I surveyed felt that the people you mention have a continuing influence, then they were free to mention them. It’s not a list of the most influential of all time, which, I agree, could well be a separate list.

  13. John Kapon? I would put him on not trusted after reading all about Rudy K, I think most Auction house wine people who say they dont know its a fake are well you know

    For Me
    Eric Asminov
    Michael Madrigale
    and of course Dr Vino no?

  14. Based on the criteria, there are many people that have set up standards and movements in the wine industry, however I do believe some have started in humble ways and their love for the industry have put them on top of their games.
    Richard Cacciato (Frederick Wildman)
    Joseph Bastianich
    Charles Ciccolone
    Kurt Eckert
    Jerry Martellaro
    Andrew Bell
    Paul Grieco
    Roger Dagorn

  15. Thanks Tyler: in that case, Jay Miller…

  16. I think we need to add Mary-Ewing Mulligan MW who’s IWC school has educated so many wine-industry professionals in NY.

  17. Briggs – Thanks for your vote–a good list!

    Weston – John Kapon is the head of the largest wine auction house based in NY and runs a retail shop. Thus his opinion is important and that’s why I asked him. Please note this is a list of participants in the survey, not a short list. Thanks for putting Dr. Vino on your short list though! Safe to say I am not one of the top five…

    Elmer – Yes, there are a lot of people. That’s why I had participants choose just five, to try to focus their minds a little bit on those that really matter today. Many participants gave it considerable thought, with some mulling it over for a few days…Thanks for your list!

    Philippe – Thanks for your vote! Again, the above list is of participants, not a short list of finalists.

  18. Have you guys ever heard of Antonio Galloni?

  19. Gary very true Antonio Galloni was certainly very influential.
    I gave it a good thought or so I thought, but after all it proved that I needed more time. Although 5 could be a good number but there are a lots of them out there.
    What about Doug Polaner, Micheal Skurnik, Terry Theise Randall Grahm, Gideon Beinstock…… and the list is growing.

  20. as a west coaster, the only wine person i can name that lives in New York is Eric Asimov. If the commenters above me are right about residency, then I would add Terry Thiesse to that list. To round my list out, I’ll add James Sienna, the guy who nominated himself, and Tyler Coleman.

    This sounds like a great list, can’t wait to read it

  21. Too bad that Mike Steinberger and Michael Madrigale are out of the running. I guess that leaves Alice Feiring, Eric Asimov and Tyler Colman. I’m sure there are a lot of restaurateurs who would also qualify

  22. I wouldn’t say Feiring is one of the top “Five”. Maybe one of the five most annoying.

  23. The opinions are gonna fly on this one! Can’t wait to see what happens!

  24. Who are the other four more annoying… and why do you say this about Alice. Who expresses freely their opinion, and have the balls to express what they believe are annoying? She doesn’t take kick-backs, she doesn’t want to taste wines that are not free from chemicals…. what’s the problem?

  25. oooh, i like this game. gary v. is great, but he’s got to be on the top-5 most annoying list

  26. This is a pretty wide open question, and people’s opinions will vary not only because of their personal viewpoints, but also what criteria they are using. So I’ll state my criteria- who has done more to change the wine market over the last decade, AND continues to do so (your article says ” affect consumers either tonight in a restaurant in town, tomorrow in a store or via a column, or a year or so down the road” – so while Joe Dressner would have been on absolute top of list for last dozen years, I’m sticking to those still around).

    David Lillie- Steinberger is correct, CSW is “the greatest wine retailer in America.” When I got into wine 99% of people regarded Loire as a place only for cheap industrial Muscadet and quaffable Sancerre. What reds? Where’s the Jura? Beaujolais- oh, the nouveau stuff./

    Eric Asimov- while I have some affection for old Frank Prial, having the old Grey Lady do stuff outside the narrow boundaries of the 1855 classification, Napa cults, and what the chevaliers du tastevin would approve of has been quite interesting (and effective)

    Jamie Wolff-cheating to put on 2 CSW? I dunno, what David did for Loire Jamie seems to have done for a lot of Italy (and introduced a lot of people to the glories of aged Nebbiolo).

    Paul Grieco- gotta have a somm on list, and he’s got longer track record than most, plus I think the fact that he is an owner of wine bars give him an extra edge. But feel free to substitute Levi D, Michael M, etc.

    John Kapon- for better or for worse (ok, for worse) the whole heavy lumber/conspicuous consumption parade he led changed the wine scene (I can no longer afford a lot of Burgundy I used to buy!).

    OK, as I type this I think well a great distributor like Polaner or Skurnik should be on here. And how about Daniel Johnnes? And a lot of my friends buy based on John Gilman’s reviews……

  27. Gabe and RobinC – Thanks for the suggestion–flattery will get you everywhere! 😉 But it’s safe to say that I’m not on the list.

    Dale – Thanks for your thoughtful discussion. I’m posting the top five over the next five days (can you tell I’m on vacation this week?). It’s a good suggestion to frame the question temporally. I did want to leave it somewhat open-ended and the results were interesting and accurate. I look forward to the discussion over the coming days.

  28. […] to our survey of industry elites, polling for the fifth most influential person in NYC wine today was extremely close. But the award […]

  29. Not so easy to do only 5, I am going for living power…
    Marvin Shanken, Eric Asimov, Josh Greene, Adam Strum, and Tyler Coleman.

  30. Looking forward to the people. Unfortunately, I was one of the 7 respondents that failed to reply.

    Oh well…next time!

    I do not see how you can have a list like this without

    Robert Parker
    Marvin Shanken
    Don Zacharia
    John Kapon
    William Deutsch
    I am already up to 5 🙂

    That is why I only had a draft, I kept erasing names. Tough to come up with just 5!

  31. […] Daniel Johnnes is the fourth most influential person in wine in New York City according to our survey of industry elites. […]

  32. […] Michael Skurnik is the third most influential person in wine in New York City according to our survey of industry elites. […]

  33. I agree with you, Philippe N…. Mary E. Mulligan has been at the nucleus of starting many people on their careers – helping them build a strong base of knowledge and a valuable “fraternity” for networking and relationships… she has been a steadfast and consistent “force” in the NYC industry.

  34. […] Paul Grieco is the second most influential person in wine in New York City according to our survey of industry elites. […]

  35. […] world of wine is Eric Asimov, chief wine critic of the New York Times. This is according to our survey of industry elites, where Asimov was the lead vote-getter by a wide […]

  36. […] of the survey were pretty interesting, so I thought I’d provide a bit more detail. The 29 participants were asked to name the top five most influential people in the NYC wine world today as they see it […]


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